The most in-demand doctors after COVID-19

By Physician Sense
Published August 31, 2020

Key Takeaways

While COVID-19 has flipped the physician job market, it will also increase demand for certain specialists, a recent Merritt Hawkins report says. The physician staffing firm’s findings indicate that the pandemic response will require more family physicians, psychiatrists, and infectious disease experts. Furthermore, the report projects that COVID-19 will increase the demand for NPs and PAs.

As part of its annual review of physician recruitment and benefits packages, Merritt Hawkins reviewed more than 3,000 physician-recruiter and employer-recruiter interactions. The review has some limitations. For example, the report covers physician-recruiter and employer-recruiter interactions between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, touching on only the beginning of the pandemic. That makes one think that if anything, their projections may be conservative, since the pandemic has continued to present.

Merritt Hawkins says that the 5 most in-demand healthcare workers are:

  1. Family Medicine (includes FP/OB)

  2. Nurse Practitioner

  3. Psychiatry

  4. Radiology

  5. Internal Medicine

This year’s report indicates that family physician was the most-requested specialty for the 14th consecutive year, which highlights the demand for primary care. They add that the shift to telehealth — driven by COVID-19 — will likely affect compensation structures for primary care physicians.

“Because of their continued key role as care coordinators, advocates of prevention,

and providers of care continuity, primary physicians will play a foundational role in the healthcare system post-COVID-19 and the market for their services will, in the long-term, be robust,” the report reads.

In the months and years ahead, primary care providers will be essential care coordinators, prevention advocates, and sources of testing and vaccination.

Increased demand for specialists

Merritt Hawkins reports that 78% of its search engagements were for specialists. Compare that to 67% 5 years ago. Driving the demand are some trends that predate COVID-19, including an aging population needing care for organs, the skeletal system, and mental health.

Nevertheless, the pandemic is adding to the demand for specialists, the report says. 

“Demand for physicians on the front lines of virus care, including emergency medicine physicians, pulmonologists/critical care physicians, and infectious disease specialists is projected to increase as a result of COVID-19,” the report reads.

Merritt Hawkins anticipates that the healthcare system will also need more hospitalists, infectious disease specialists, emergency medicine physicians, and pulmonary/critical care specialists, noting that they “will be needed to both maintain population health should cases of COVID-19 persist and prepare for the next pandemic or public health emergency.”

Infectious disease specialists

There was perhaps a quaint time when some thought medical advances had decreased the demand for ID specialists. But the widespread, deadly nature of COVID-19 renders that thought moot. Even prior to coronavirus, we saw outbreaks of HIV and ebola, as well as increasing cases of Hepatitis C and tuberculosis. We also have more immunocompromised patients, including cancer and transplant patients, who are susceptible to infectious disease.

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